The Mental Health Disability Series-Anxiety

The mental condition known as “anxiety” can also serve as the basis to obtain Social Security disability benefits. What is anxiety? How serious does anxiety have to be in order to qualify as a disability?

“Anxiety” is a normal reaction to stress. It is part of mental makeup which is designed to help us cope with difficult situations. For example, speaking in public, playing in competitive sports even taking an examination. Normally, experiences of stress are brief and mild. During the experience of stress, our senses become sharper and our focus more intense. But for some, experiences of stress last much longer, is far too intense and begins to interfere with normal daily activities. These people encounter what many view as normal and routine activities with dread and an irrational fear. It is then that anxiety crosses the line to an anxiety disorder.

It is estimated that 40 million adult Americans suffer with some form of anxiety disorder. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. The specific type depends upon the presentation of clinical features. While no two anxiety disorders are alike they do have in common a dread and irrational fear of the common place. Among the more specific diagnosis are: panic disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder.

In order to meet the listing for anxiety (Listing 12.06), SSA must first find that the disease has at least 1 of the following symptoms present: 1. generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by three out of four of the following signs or symptoms: a. Motor tension; or b. Autonomic hyperactivity; or c. Apprehensive expectation; or d. Vigilance and scanning; or
2. A persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation which results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object, activity, or situation; or 3. Recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror and sense of impending doom occurring on the average of at least once a week; or 4. Recurrent obsessions or compulsions which are a source of marked distress; or 5. Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience, which are a source of marked distress;
These symptoms must be present in your medical treatment records and found to be in existence for at least a continuous period of 1 year or expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. However, the source from which the medical record may note these symptoms may include, you, your family and friends and the physician/therapist’s assessment.

In addition to proving that 1 of the above symptoms set out above are present, the symptoms identified must cause “marked” limitations in 2 of the following 4 areas: 1. restriction of activities of daily living; 2. difficulties in maintaining social functioning; 3. difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence of pace; 4. episodes of decompensation).

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